Is Surfing A Sport?


Surfing can be considered a fun physical activity that can be enjoyed in any season of the year. It can also be regarded as a good form of exercise that will keep you fit and in shape; read this article to find out more.

However, many people forget that surfing is an incredible outdoor water sport and don’t give it the recognition it deserves. Therefore, this post will tell you all about surfing and the surfing subculture, so you can fall in love with the sport just like the rest of the world did.

What Kind of Sport Is Surfing?

Nowadays, surfing is defined as a hobby or sport where surfers ride a breaking wave towards the shore until that wave breaks, and they can do this while standing or lying on their surfboards. But, how did this activity come to be? 

The Evolution of Surfing

According to surf historians, surfing, or wave riding as it was initially known, has been around for a very long time, primarily being practised in ancient Polynesia and Peru. Surfing remained ingrained in those cultures, especially in premodern Hawaii, but it fell considerably out of practice by the end of the 19th century.

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the influence of the two Hawaiian surfers, Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth, combined with the Hawaiian islands becoming very popular among tourists, revitalised interest in surfing, both locally and internationally.

The invention of lighter and shorter boards (that were more easily manoeuvrable than traditional surfboards made of solid Balsa wood) transformed surfing into a more accessible sport. It took the world by storm, all the way from Southern California to South Africa and Australia.

Click here for an in-depth read about the invention of surfing.

However, surfing wasn’t considered a competitive sport by then, but a fun pastime or hobby. It wasn’t till the establishment of organised surfing competitions in the mid and latter half of the 1900s that surfing became acknowledged as a professional sport.

Then, as time progressed, the modern surfing culture spread and gave rise to more than 20 million surfers worldwide, complete with surfing slang and catchphrases. The sport even gave berth to other variations, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, and even skateboarding.

Still, then and now, many surfers don’t like the competitive nature of modern surf competitions and think that the surf culture should be more of a way of self-expression and obtaining a spiritual connection to nature.

That isn’t to say that competitive surfing isn’t popular. Quite the opposite, worldwide contests are held annually to choose the best surfers in the world, and many participate for the honour and the lucrative prizes. 

Is Surfing an Olympic Sport?

Originally, surfing wasn’t one of the numerous Olympic sports. However, in 2014, the International Olympic Committee stated that the country hosting the Olympics could propose the inclusion of new sports.

Accordingly, in 2015, the Tokyo organisation committee suggested the addition of surfing to the 2020 Olympics. Then, shortly after the proposal was approved, the International surfing association decided that the competition wouldn’t be held in artificial wave pools but on the Chiba coastline at Tsurigasaki/Shidashita Beach.

So, surfing became an official Olympic sport in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with mostly positive reactions. Therefore, it’s highly likely that surfing will remain as one of the Olympic sports in the future, though only time will tell.

Is Surfing the Hardest Sport to Learn?

While surfing may not be the most challenging sport to learn, it’s definitely up there. Like any sport, surfing takes a lot of effort, time, and commitment until you build and refine surfing techniques. However, what makes surfing truly hard is that you can’t control all the elements that go into it. It’s simply you vs mother nature.

So, even if someone wants to practice, the ocean may not make riding waves an easy matter, either producing no waves or creating monstrous ones. Moreover, the danger factor associated with the sport makes it incredibly difficult for surfers to hone their skills.

Surfers potentially face many risks, such as falling off a board and hitting the water from height, the surfboard, or the rocks and coral on the ocean floor. Additionally, the possibility of drowning or encountering sharks is always present.

Some people do give up learning surfing due to the hazards that come with it. In general, most surfers have experienced some form of injury, be it a minor sprain, laceration, concussion, or fracture.

Accordingly, surfing became one of the extreme sports, aka action sports, due to its risk and the amount of skill an athlete must possess to avoid that risk, especially with competitive trick surfing and big wave surfing.

Competitions such as Mavericks and Nazare include both big waves and competitive tricks. As such, several big wave surfers have unfortunately had near-death experiences while competing at them, and some have passed away.

So, in short, while riding waves may not be very difficult to pick up, the extreme sport certainly comes with its fair share of trouble and will need complete dedication if you’re thinking of taking on larger waves.

Is Surfing a Cheap Sport?

This will depend on how seriously you decide to take surfing. If you’re looking to learn surfing just to have fun, then it won’t cost you too much.

All you need to buy is an appropriate short or longboard and a pair of board shorts (or a wetsuit) to protect yourself from the elements. This will generally amount to £500 ($700), give or take. Way less if you don’t buy a brand new surfboard and decide to go with a second-hand one for £150-£200 (about $200 to $300).

While this amount of money may seem a lot to some people, it’s not too bad considering you won’t need anything except for some wax for your surfboard.

Nevertheless, if you decide on pursuing surfing seriously, then the cost will go up a bit. Special equipment and clothing like surf goggles, jerseys, and shoes can seriously rack up the price. Moreover, a surfboard with a high-quality board design and a carefully crafted nose and tail does not come cheap.

That isn’t to mention the funding required to follow good swells worldwide or the fees needed to learn surfing from proficient instructors. So, all in all, surfing can be cheap or expensive depending on how you decide to treat wave riding.

Final Thoughts

Surfing is most definitely a sport, though many still think of it as a simple recreational activity. Though it started as such, wave surfing is now an extreme sport that takes considerable skill, energy, endurance, and physical strength to master.

Moreover, the act of riding breaking waves in the ocean with nothing but a light board with three fins in unpredictable weather conditions that may threaten to inflict injuries or take you underwater at any second takes considerable courage.

That isn’t to say that surfing has to be done by experienced riders only. Ordinary men, women, and kids can wear regular beach clothes and have a relaxing time surfing under the sun using nothing but a simple, lightweight foam board. So, the next time you go to the beach or travel to Hawaii or Tahiti, be sure to ride a wave or two for your enjoyment.

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